Champion Adonis Stevenson wore a crown and grinned as he roamed the dais microphone in hand, promising a knockout.
Challenger Badou Jack somehow managed to exude menace politely, saying Saturday will mark the end of Stevenson’s almost five-year reign as WBC light-heavyweight boxing champion.
Big-time boxing is back in Toronto with organizers billing Saturday’s main event at the Air Canada Centre – Stevenson’s ninth title defence – as the city’s biggest bout in 30 years.
Thursday’s news conference to promote the show was boxing through and through. Originally scheduled for 11 a.m., it was pushed back in mid-morning to 2 p.m. It eventually started at 2:39, stoked by a DJ playing the likes of Slipknot, Cypress Hill, Mobb Deep and Fetty Wap.
There were eight people on the podium and all of them had something to say, including co-promoter and Jack-backer Floyd Mayweather.
Both fighters predicted victory.
“It’s 12 rounds and I just need one punch. Only one,” said Stevenson, a southpaw from Blainville, Que., whose left hand is his biggest weapon. “That’s it.”
Jack, a former super-middleweight and light-heavyweight title-holder in his own right, noted he was the one that asked for the fight.
“He’s got nothing that scares me,” said Jack, whose nickname is The Ripper. “I fear no man. He’s one of the toughest guys in boxing, but I’m a tougher guy and I will prove that [Saturday]. I will be the new champion.”
Jack, the WBC’s No. 1 contender, won the WBA light-heavyweight title last August when he stopped Welshman Nathan Cleverly in the fifth round on the undercard of Mayweather’s boxing bout with MMA star Conor McGregor in Las Vegas.
Jack vacated the title soon after, seeing Stevenson as a bigger fight and better payday.
At 40 years old, Stevenson is six years older than Jack. Critics have questioned his strength of opponents of late.
“Look at the guys I fought. Look at the guys he fought,” Jack said.
The challenger made a point of noting that Stevenson, a father of four whose nickname is Superman, is the sixth straight current or former world champion he has faced – he beat four and drew with one.
Jack, a father of two, says he is younger, faster and better. Still, Stevenson’s left hook should be a good test of his chin if it connects.
On Thursday, Jack proved he is also pretty deft on his feet outside the ring when Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, talked up his fighter’s power.
“You will find out Badou, because everybody changes when they first get hit by Stevenson,” Michel said. “Everybody changes colour.”
“You get hit by him?” Jack asked.
Ring Magazine currently has WBO champion Sergey Kovalev of Russia ranked No. 1 among light-heavyweights with Stevenson No. 2 and Jack No. 8.
Mayweather says he first took notice of Jack, noting he “was kicking ass in the gym.”
“I love this kid ... I’m proud of Badou. A class act.”
Badou was wearing a diamond-encrusted watch, a gift from Mayweather for a previous world title.
The Stevenson-Jack fight came about after Colombian Eleider (Storm) Alvarez, the WBC mandatory challenger, stepped aside to face Kovalev on Aug. 4 in Atlantic City, N.J.
In the complicated and often confusing world of boxing, the Stevenson-Jack winner is supposed to fight Oleksandr Gvozdyk of Ukraine. Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KOs) won a 12-round decision over France’s Mehdi Amar in March to win the WBC’s interim title.
Jack, a Muslim, says he plans to start fasting on Monday, his start to Ramadan coming a bit late because of the fight.
Air Canada Centre will be configured for an audience of some 6,000 for a card that suddenly shifted to Toronto from Montreal less than a month ago.
Nobody offered a reason why at Thursday’s news conference. Local promoter Lee Baxter, however, said earlier in the week that Stevenson wanted to fight in Toronto.
Stevenson, who defeated American Tommy Karpency in 2015 at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum, owns real estate in Toronto as well as business interests outside of boxing that include a cleaning service app and a “Superman-certified” fashion line.
Baxter says he expects the show to be a sellout or near-sellout.